Fantasy Premier League managers should make sure they keep an eye on the Bundesliga ahead of the Double Gameweek 30+ deadline.
The top-flight of German football was the first major European league to resume play following the continent’s coronavirus outbreak – and there have been plenty of changes.
These alterations to the usual way of playing have had an impact there and they are likely to affect the Premier League too.
I did try my hand at Fantasy Bundesliga to see if I could get some sort of engagement but it just wasn’t the same as our beloved FPL.
However, watching the Bundesliga has convinced me that football without fans could still make for compelling viewing and provide a great distraction during challenging times.
For example, the meeting between Borussia Dortmund and Bayern Munich was one of the best 90 minutes I have watched, with intensity, aggression and end-to-end action.
But these matches have also provided a chance to weigh up what factors are likely to affect the Premier League when it returns. Here are a few things I learned…
Home advantage is severely diluted
The lack of fans is bound to have some impact on Premier League teams
In the thirty-six matches played since the Bundesliga’s resumption in mid-May, there have been only eight home victories so far.
That works out at just over 20 per cent, almost half the season average of 40 per cent. You can read more about that HERE.
This is worrying for teams like Aston Villa and Norwich, who have typically relied on their home crowd for the points this season.
Dean Smith’s men have secured 17 of their 25 points at Villa Park, while 15 of the Canaries’ 21 have come at Carrow Road.
Even worse for Daniel Farke’s troops is the fact that they have scored 76% of their goals at home, the highest percentage in the league.
The lack of a home crowd could affect teams even higher in the table too.
Everton have picked up 68% of their points at Goodison Park this season and conceded 31 goals on the road compared to just 15 at home.
Arsenal are in a similar boat. They rank sixth for points secured at home this season (25), but recorded just under half (14) on the road.
It also worth considering the teams that typically do better away from home, especially if they may have a greater opportunity to punish their upcoming hosts.
Chelsea have arguably fallen into this category in 2019/20. While they have the same number of wins home and away this season, they rank eighth for home points and third for road points.
Southampton follow this trend too. They have the lowest number of points accumulated in home games this season (14), but are the sixth-best on the road (20).
Rotation is to be expected, especially for fullbacks and wingers
Guardiola could follow the trend of Bundesliga managers and rotate more
With short turnarounds, Bundesliga line-ups are unpredictable and players are often left out without any prior intimation of injury. It would be reasonable to expect this in the Premier League too.
Centre-backs have been relatively safe compared to the full-backs so perhaps we need to deviate from the traditional strategy of going heavy on the wide men.
A deep Fantasy squad may be important moving forward, with your bench players likely to be called upon more often than usual.
However, the changes to substitutions could even up the threat of rotation.
Now that real-life managers will be able to make five changes in a match (only changing their team on three occasions, of course), the likes of Raheem Sterling (£11.7m) could get more minutes than usual, even if they were benched initially.
It is also worth saying that, in the Bundesliga, the teams at the top-end of the table and those motivated to achieve either the title, European football or safety from relegation have not actually rotated all that much.
For example, key players such as Bayern Munich’s Robert Lewandowski and RB Leipzig attacker Timo Werner have started every match so far, which is somewhat encouraging for anyone worried about Manchester City or Liverpool assets.
Injuries are more likely
The Premier League could see more injuries after Project Restart
There has been a massive upturn in the number of injuries in the Bundesliga since they resumed the 2019/20 season.
Before lockdown, the German top-flight saw roughly 0.27 injuries per game, but the first round of fixtures played after the restart produced an average of 0.88 per game.
While it may not look like a massive leap, it was still an increase of 226% from before.
While the impact of coronavirus on worldwide sport is largely unprecedented, there is still some evidence to back-up the idea that long periods without competitive action can lead to more injuries.
For this, we travel back to 2011 to study the NFL lockout.
Following a league-wide pay dispute which prevented players from accessing team facilities for 136 days, pre-season training camps were cut from the usual 14 weeks to just 17 days.
In the first 12 days of training camp, 10 players ruptured their Achilles tendons and the number of injuries during the first month of the new season was more than double the average typically observed over an entire season.
Both of these examples make for rather ominous reading ahead of the Premier League’s return this month.
Not everyone is going sub crazy
While some FPL teams may use more substitutes, it does not mean all of them will
While there does seem to be plenty to worry about when it comes to injuries, it does look as if the better teams are not taking too many liberties with the five substitutes rule.
The Bundesliga’s top two teams in Bayern Munich and RB Leipzig have used only 3.75 subs per match since play resumed, the joint second-lowest rate in the league.
However, the average number of substitutions made across the league has still gone up by a relatively significant amount.
Before the current pandemic, Bundesliga teams made 2.92 substitutions per match, but this has risen to 4.29 since the restart.
That said, what FPL managers are probably most worried about is assets being brought off before the 60th minute.
Thankfully, the precedent being set in Germany is that not all real-life managers are necessarily making earlier changes.
The average number of substitutions within the first 60 minutes of matches has gone up by only a tiny amount, from 0.62 to 0.88.
Nominated for ‘Best in Fantasy Football – Editorial’ at the Football Content Awards 2020
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